Speakers urge council to acknowledge a basic human right

By Cecilia Nasmith

Because water is necessary for life, Petra Hartwig and Gudrun Ludorf-Weaver lobbied Cobourg council Monday to become a Blue Community.

The presenters represented the Northumberland chapter of the Council of Canadians, Sustainable Cobourg and Blue Dot, and were supported by a contingent of perhaps a dozen audience members (many dressed in the signature blue T-shirt).

Their request involves adopting a Blue Communities resolution to recognize access to water and sanitary facilities as a right, to phase out commercial bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events, and to consider including room in the budget for water-bottle filling stations for outdoor areas like parks.

As well, Ludorf-Weaver said, they promote publicly owned and operated water and waste-water services.

“Blue Communities challenge the privatization, commodification and corporate control of water,” Hartwig added.

As for sanitation, Ludorf-Weaver continued, everyone should have the right to private facilities that are affordable, dignified and culturally sensitive.

These rights have been enshrined by 40 countries, she said, and provinces that have come on board include Nova Scotia and Northwest Territories.

“Why do we have bottled water?” she wondered.

“It represents a private take-over of the water commons. Corporations take free-flowing water from its natural source, or sometimes municipal water, put it in plastic bottles and sell it at exorbitant rates.

“Scientific evidence suggests 50% of bottled water comes from municipalities,

“We contend that water is not a product,” she insisted.

“Water-bottle companies extract water for next to nothing from springs and aquifers. Whole watersheds are under threat because of this practice, and people spend over 3,000 times what it would cost to have tap water.”

Hartwig described their discussions with Lakefront Utility Services Inc. and how they are prepared to support the water-bottle filling stations – though the purchase, at $3,500 to $4,500 per unit, would be a town responsibility.

“Maybe one this year, maybe one or two next year – it doesn't all have to happen at once,” she said.

Mayor John Henderson earned their approving comments when he pointed out that the drinking fountains next to the elevators at Victoria Hall have been converted to water-bottle filling stations.

Councillor Brian Darling made a motion that the presentation be forwarded to the Environment and Climate Change Advisory Committee for their comment.